What is the best lighting for makeup application? [And what to avoid]

Applying makeup requires specific lighting to get the best results. Different types of lighting contain and create different ‘colours’ and levels of light, each creating a different visual effect on the face. This is why makeup artists and photographers pay a great deal of attention to the lighting in each scenario, as the wrong kind can make or break the outcome.

So what exactly is the best lighting for makeup? We’ll talk you through the different ways to light your face for makeup application, including the types of light to avoid.

Best types of lighting to apply makeup

Natural light

best lighting for applying makeup natural light

Before we delve into the various types of electric lighting, it’s important to acknowledge the benefits of using natural light for applying makeup. Natural light will always be the best form of lighting for makeup thanks to its evenly diffused, clear quality. This clear, soft light will help you spot any flaws in your makeup and ensure you can blend everything correctly, so try and place your makeup mirror near a window or beneath a skylight wherever possible.

But what happens if you’re trying to apply makeup in the evening? This is where it becomes important to achieve the right types of artificial lighting to prevent mistakes and unblended areas in your makeup.

White light

The next best thing for applying makeup after natural light is cool, white artificial light. LED bulbs are best for achieving this type of lighting, but these do come in a variety of strengths and warmth levels so you will need to pay attention to this when you’re choosing your bulb.

Lighting warmth is measured in Kelvin (K) and varies from glowing candlelight (less than 2,000K) to pure, blue-sky daylight (10,000K). The best lighting for makeup application sits between 4,800K to 6,000K, a level of white lighting that isn’t too cool or too warm. Most light bulbs and other illuminating products such as mirror lights will show the colour temperature on the packaging to help you choose the right level.

Types of lighting to avoid

The worst types of lighting for makeup application include yellow, red and fluorescent lighting. Here’s why:

Yellow light

best lighting for makeup avoid yellow light

Yellow or excessively warm lighting will make your skin appear tired and sallow, which can lead to the over-application of concealer and other makeup. Once you go outside or into a cooler, more naturally-lit area, this over-application will become very noticeable.

Red/rose-coloured light

Red or rose lighting can give your face a pseudo-healthy glow, which is great for taking a nice photo but can cause you to under-apply makeup to the areas that may need it the most. Once again, stepping into natural light will suddenly highlight this under-application.

Fluorescent light

Fluorescent lighting is perhaps the least flattering light source on the face, causing your skin tone to appear falsely washed out. This overly-bright light makes you more likely to overapply foundation, blusher and bronzer when you don’t really need it.

Positioning your light

Once you’ve found your ideal cool, white light source for your makeup, it’s time to make sure you’re positioning it correctly for the best results. Here are our top tips for creating the best lighting setup for makeup application:

Position lighting directly in front of your face

The most important aspect of good makeup lighting is placing it directly in front of your face. Positioning it above or below your face will create shadows, which can hide important areas and hinder your chances of applying makeup evenly and in the right amounts.

Keep lighting evenly spread

best mirrors for makeup

In an ideal world, makeup lighting needs to be cast evenly across your face. This is why makeup artists tend to use ring lights, as these create an even distribution of light across the entire face. Wall mirrors with built-in lights are another handy source of makeup lighting, as these tend to feature lights on both sides or all the way around the mirror for a similar effect.

In the absence of natural light, following these top tips will help you create the best lighting for makeup application at home. No more splotches!

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